A 69-year-old man was awarded the Star of Courage for risking his life to save a complete stranger from a gruesome polar bear attack.
Bill Ayote was watching television inside his home in Churchill, Manitoba, when he heard piercing screams coming from outside.
He opened his door and saw a woman being mauled by a polar bear.
“A bear had a woman by the head and was wagging her around in the air,” he told The Star.
He briefly thought about calling town’s polar bear patrol but knew the woman would be dead before they could arrive.
So, wearing only a sweater and pajama bottoms, Ayote ran outside and attacked the massive polar bear with a shovel.
The bear released the woman, Erin Greene, who fled to the safety of his house.
“If that bear had a minute more, 30 seconds more, if Bill hadn’t come out, I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
But now the mauling was on for Ayote. It clamped on his leg and ripped off his ear. He was certain the bear was going to kill him.
But the commotion brought neighbors out of their homes. They tried to ward off the bear by firing flare guns. They screamed and yelled. Finally a man jumped in his truck and drove at the bear honking and flashing the headlights. That caused the animal to flee.
After the bear left, Ayote, cold and unsure if he would survive, asked whether or not he had saved the woman.
“I wanted to know she was all right before I died,” he recalled.
He had, and he would survive as well, later earning the Star of Courage, one of Canada’s three decorations for bravery.
Ayotte continues to lead what he calls “a simple life” with his wife, while the shovel still sits on his porch.